Canadian Tesho Akindele scores as Orlando City SC blanks Toronto FC
Dynamo hold off Whitecaps for 2-1 win
The learning curve continues for Toronto FC under new coach Chris Armas.
Six games into the season, Toronto (1-3-2) has just one win after Saturday's 1-0 loss to Orlando City SC. An early goal by Canadian Tesho Akindele helped Orlando (3-0-3) extend its unbeaten start to the MLS campaign to a club-record six games.
After collecting just one point and being outscored 8-4 in its first three league games, Toronto came into Saturday's contest having taken four points and outscored the opposition 3-1 over its previous two matches.
Armas preferred to see the glass half full.
"I think we'll be disappointed at the goal we let in," said Armas. "But the attitude, the approach, the pressing, the commitment to when we don't have the ball, the ability to create chances, the structure, I think there's a lot of positives."
None of them were on display on Orlando's goal.
Dutch winger Silvester van der Water, acquired in February from Heracles Almelo of the Dutch top flight, made his MLS debut for Orlando and set up Akindele for the opening goal in the 12th minute.
After an Omar Gonzalez clearing header went to Orlando's Chris Mueller at midfield, the ball made its way four passes later to the right flank where van der Water sent a cross past Chris Mavinga who had been dragged wide from his centre back position. Junior Urso and Akindele were both left unmarked with a gaping hole in the middle of the Toronto defence.
The cross found Akindele, who headed it past goalkeeper Alex Bono for his second of the season — and the 39th of his MLS career. Akindele has been part of all three game-winners for Orlando this season, scoring two and assisting on Mauricio Pereyra's strike in last week's 1-0 win over D.C. United.
WATCH | Orlando City extends unbeaten streak with win over Toronto:
Toronto winger Yeferson Soteldo and fullback Kemar Lawrence had both moved away from the left sideline, allowing Orlando a clear path down the flank and forcing Mavinga to move over.
Still there were seven or eight Toronto bodies in the penalty box. None was in position to close down Akindele or Urso.
TFC, which suffered through a pandemic-disrupted pre-season, is 2-5-3 in all competitions in 2021, including the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.
The club remains very much a work in progress with injured Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo yet to feature and newcomers Soteldo and Lawrence finding their way. Star striker Jozy Altidore, his start interrupted by injury, has yet to hit high gear.
Armas' confidence may be well placed, but it's a question of when Toronto puts it all together.
"We created chances we didn't finish. That's a part of the game," said Lawrence. "I know that will come with the quality we have and the depth we have. But for me, we've got to be tighter in the backline. And that doesn't come overnight."
On the plus side, Soteldo is already proving to be a handful. One defender is not enough to contain the diminutive Venezuelan with Fred Astaire-like feet.
"We thought he was dangerous all night long," said Armas.
Orlando is one of three unbeaten sides in Major League Soccer, along with the Seattle Sounders (5-0-1) and Nashville SC (1-0-4). And it lived up to that billing, bending but not breaking on defence and creating chances on the counter-attack with the hard-working Akindele leading the line.
Toronto pressed in injury time, making for a wild finish with Orlando 'keeper Pedro Gallese stopping shots by Nick DeLeon and Soteldo in the 96th minute — and Bono coming forward for the final seconds.
Orlando also scored early, in the seventh minute, in last week's win over D.C. United.
Toronto is using Exploria Stadium as its home base this season during the pandemic. But Saturday's match was officially a home game for Orlando. A limited number of fans were allowed in Saturday night.
Armas made two changes to the starting 11 that rallied for a 1-1 tie at New York City FC last week. Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who had seen just 29 minutes in the first five league games due to a thigh issue, and Mark Delgado slotted in in place of Tsubasa Endoh and Ayo Akinola.
An unhappy-looking Osorio exited in the 55th minute, with a hand on the back of his right thigh. Gonzalez also asked to be substituted in the 81st minute, possibly due to cramping.
Armas continued with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Brazil's Auro alongside captain Michael Bradley in front of the backline.
Dynamo hold off Whitecaps
The Dynamo (3-2-2) took the lead in the eighth minute. Fafa Picault swinged in a cross from wide left, Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was unable to corral it after a deflection off defender Bruno Gaspar and Rodriguez smashed home the putback.
Urruti doubled the lead in the 42nd minute with a side volley to finish Rodriguez's corner.
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Deiber Caicedo pulled the Whitecaps (2-4-1) within 2-1 in the 80th minute, dribbling around goalkeeper Marko Maric and drilling a right-footed shot through three defenders.
Houston's Ariel Lassiter had a curling left-footer miss off the top of the crossbar in the 67th minute.
CF Montreal collapses late against FC Cincinnati
Gustavo Vallecilla scored on a brilliant diving header in the 86th minute as FC Cincinnati earned its first win of the season with a 2-1 victory over CF Montreal on Saturday at DRV PNK Stadium.
Cincinnati, which started the day in last place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference standings, improved to 1-3-1.
Montreal (2-3-2) has lost all three times it has faced Cincinnati, with both previous defeats coming in the visitors' debut MLS season in 2019.
Both teams struggled to create scoring opportunities in the early going on a hot, sunny afternoon.
WATCH | FC Cincinnati downs CF Montreal for 1st victory of the season:
Using a 3-4-1-2 formation, Montreal tried to slowly build the play by focusing on possession rather than aggressiveness. Cincinnati, meanwhile, went with a 5-3-2 setup.
Montreal's Erik Hurtado had a decent chance in the 25th minute but Cincinnati goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer made a diving save on a deflected strike from just inside the box.
Montreal had a decent spell of pressure late in the first half as play began to open up. Romell Quioto flashed some deft footwork to get a good chance but Vermeer cut down the angle and turned it away.
A glorious opportunity was wasted in the 45th minute as Quioto stunningly missed an open tap-in.
With Montreal on an open two-man break, Zachary Brault-Guillard fed the ball across past a helpless Vermeer but Quioto one-timed the ball wide instead of into the empty net.
Some of his teammates put their hands on heads in disbelief. Head coach Wilfried Nancy shook his head several times and rubbed his eyebrow as he paced the sideline.
Quioto atoned for the error early in the second half as he drew Vermeer and two defenders before delivering a slick pass to Mihailovic for the opening goal.
Cincinnati tied the game when Montreal couldn't clear the ball after a corner kick. Geoff Cameron headed the ball to Locadia who flicked it past goalkeeper Clement Diop.
On the winner, Ronald Matarrita provided a perfect cross that Vallecilla timed perfectly for his first career MLS goal.
Mihailovic, Brault-Guillard, Quioto and Victor Wanyama were all booked for yellow cards for Montreal, which was coming off a 1-0 loss to Atlanta United last week.
Montreal will visit the Chicago Fire next Saturday before the international break.
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With files from The Associated Press